By Tim Graham
For the longest time, neither team could make a basket.
Then the shots started to fall, yet pulling away was impossible.
Whether missing layups, lofting air balls or finally knocking down shots, the difference between Dayton and Syracuse remained razor thin.
At the buzzer, Dayton had done enough for a rollicking 55-53 NCAA Tournament victory Saturday night in First Niagara Center.
Dayton, an 11th seed, is headed to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1984. Syracuse, a third seed that was ranked No. 1 in the country last month, is done.
Dayton guard Jordan Sibert converted a long three-pointer with 49 seconds to go to give his team a 52-47 lead and force Syracuse to foul out of desperation.
Sibert opened the door for Syracuse by stepping out of bounds with 16 seconds to play and Syracuse down by a point, but Syracuse guard Tyler Ennis missed a short jumper.
Dayton's Dyshawn Pierre rebounded and was fouled with seven seconds on the clock. He missed the second free throw, giving Syracuse one more chance.
Ennis' three-pointer rimmed out as time expired.
No player had more than six points in the first half. Dayton shot 35 percent from the floor, while Syracuse shot 30 percent.
Syracuse missed nine straight shots at the end of the first half and the start of the second half.
Syracuse ended the drought by making two straight shots about three minutes into the second half, only the second time it had accomplished the meager feat and its first successful back-to-back attempts since the game was under 10 minutes old.
Then the Orange made three in a row for the first time. But Dayton also heated up, hitting five out of eight shots, including three three-pointers to take a 35-30 lead with about 11:20 to play.
Syracuse went on a 6-0 run to go ahead -- only its second lead of the game -- with 9:24 remaining on a Michael Gbinije layup. The Orange had made five straight shots and nine of 12 since they missed nine in a row.
The game remained a slugfest from there. They traded misses and makes seemingly on every possession.
taggedAtlantic 10 | Atlantic Coast Conference | NCAA Tournament